Saturday, November 23, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now? Communicating Library Services to Distance Education Students and Faculty


The ACRL Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services (2000) assert "access to adequate library services and resources is essential for the attainment of superior academic skills in post-secondary education, regardless of where students, faculty, and programs are located." A basic menu of library resources and services for distance users includes remote access to databases, e-books, e-reserves, e-reference, and interlibrary loan tailored for remote users. A user-focused approach, providing instruction and guidance in resource use, distinguishes some institutions for remote students. The needs of distance education faculty are rarely addressed.

The results of this research reinforce the fact that although library services and resources are essential to an effective distance education program, simply providing access is insufficient. Communicating access through web design and the marketing of available services and resources is suggested for successful use. Although the size and type of institution may have an impact on the number of resources and services offered to remote users, these parameters would seem to have little bearing on the effective communication of available library services. A distance education or off-campus gateway should be prominently featured on the library's home page and should be designed to respond to the needs of users, even if information seems repetitive or obvious to library staff. A good test of gateway effectiveness is the attempt to identify and answer common user questions, which may reveal gaps in understanding. The following elements could be considered essential for the library distance education gateway: library contact information, personalized where possible; listings of remote access databases and e-books with some guidance for their use and information on authorization as appropriate; some electronic means of posing reference questions; and specific instructions for off-campus interlibrary loan procedures. Desirable information would include subject or course-specific resource pages and information for distance education faculty.

Cite:  Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume VIII, Number II, Summer 2005

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